The crushing of the Unipolar World in the Middle East

Dec 10, 2022
USD dollar notes and Saudi Arabia flag background. Crude oil and petroleum concept.

The unipolar world is dead and American control of the Middle East is a wreck.

This essay provides historical context for major current developments in world affairs. Among the most significant of these, it has become clear that the dollar will fall and no longer be a cash cow for its owner, the United States. This is linked to a geostrategic realignment taking place in the Middle East that will affect the balance of the global economy. None of these developments endangers Australia. But if Australia chooses to ignore the new directions that are taking shape in world affairs, we risk becoming the White Trash of Asia: belligerent, uneducated, and unloved.

To understand the present, we must understand the past.

The British, not the Americans, were the leading English-speaking colonial era explorers of Arabia …as they were leading and never-matched exponents of mass death by policy in India in the same times, atrocities worse than any in intervening times anywhere in the world.

As to Arabia… Harry St John Bridger Philby, better known as Jack, is less well known than was his son Kim, the double agent. Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, is best known as a film.

Both were English Arabists, writers, and explorers. Lawrence had better connections than Philby, and was a diplomatic officer, whereas Philby was just a consular officer over in Jeddah. Lawrence got assistance from the Hashemite Arabs in a founding phase of making Improvised Explosive De-vices and engaging in Middle East terrorism, blowing up Ottoman trains, etc. For this evil the Saud king expelled the Hashemites from their homelands and Mecca. The British installed the Hashe-mites in Jordan, under British protection.

With British rejection of his advice that the Saudis were more important than the Hashemites, Philby introduced the Saudis to the Standard Oil Company, created by John D Rockefeller. For many in Britain, this was a betrayal…that is, later, when it became known that Saudi Arabia floated on oil. Perhaps thus a betrayal meme was handed down to Kim.

As beautifully recorded in this essay in Arab News, a Saudi publication, the meeting between the Saudi king and US president in February 1945 set a framework for a long term relationship based on friendship, respect, and assurance of security and sole rights for Americans to oil and gas exploration in Saudi Arabia. For a quarter of a century this underpinned the oil basis for the American and European economies, along with oil from Iran, following the US-UK coup against an elected Iranian government in August 1953. The birth of the petrodollar shaped the international monetary system up to now, though refined people tend to refer only to Bretton Woods. The Americans were taking Bretton Woods apart before the 1973 oil crisis.

On an Israeli religious holiday weekend in October 1973, Egypt and Syria launched an ill-advised attack on Israel that went badly wrong for the Arabs. With US resupply aircraft heading for Israel passing Soviet resupply aircraft heading for Egypt sharing air space over the eastern Mediterranean there was high strategic risk, the American alert status of DEFCON-3 also applying to US bases in Australia. Global economic strategy was hit by the ‘First Oil Shock’ when Arab countries embargoed oil sales to supporters of Israel. That Wikipedia article at link provides a useful account of strategic consequences including shift in Washington to contemplation of controlling the Middle East by military means; also of how Nixon and Kissinger deeply offended the Saudi king by oversupply of weapons to Israel. The power of the dollar, based on the petrodollar, remained and was strengthened in 1974, but here we have some roots of early twenty first century fantasies and follies in the Middle East.

In the middle of the 1970s, US strategic defence posture required capabilities for one and two half wars: central war in Europe at the same time as ‘half-wars’ in the Middle East and Northeast Asia [source: my own access to United States Defence Guidance in the US defence department at the time]. Such dreams after defeat in Vietnam. And then they lost Iran, a loss never forgotten, never forgiven, a bitter pivot point for American strategic policy ever since.

Also in the 1970s there was emerging re-attachment in the US Navy to the strategic idea of Alfred Mahan that there could only be one navy… a notion that was to become ‘only one power’ after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In July 2022 President Biden visited Saudi Arabia seeking in the context of many other things to affirm US power and get more oil produced as he hacked off European oil supply lines from Russia. But then in October 2022, OPEC+ led by Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to a cut in oil production equivalent to 2% of world production, on which President Biden once again pronounced his superior colonial disagreement.

In this century, in the Middle East and elsewhere, American strategy has been destructive, to American society as well as warping the American economy, let alone the countries battered. In the centre of Arab power, Saudi Arabia, there is room for concern about their envelopment by the US: if they can sanction and punish Venezuela, Russia, and more, when is our turn?, the Saudis ask. This is not a hypothetical question. The sanctions have already begun.

Among all the interweavings… the American occupation of part of Syria has allegedly resulted in theft of oil from Syria. While NATO member Turkey in Syria is now increasing its fight against US-supported Kurds who have, with Russian support, done much of the fighting against ISIS.

Now Arabia and Iran look East. Iran is joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. There is increased cooperation between Russia and Iran, not only on defence matters but with new railways, adding to networks being created by the BRI. There is a new Organisation of Turkic States. The Eurasian Economic Union may come to life with connections to Europe damaged. China’s Belt and Road Initiative, despite the crushing absurdity of its expungement in Victoria in the anti-China frenzy by the Australian government bent on restoring Liberal power in its heartland, is alive and well, all around us.

This Times of India article discusses the global monetary consequences of Saudia Arabia joining BRICS, which seems likely. This is the core of efforts to supplant the dollar. Argentina and Iran may join too.

And now Chinese President Xi Jinping has gone to Saudi Arabia for a lot of bilateral business and a summit with Arab countries.

The US is burying its allies in Europe and Asia, is no longer such a power as it was so recently elsewhere, and is in domestic disorder.

The unipolar world is dead. There are new geostrategic realities binding Arab and Asian states. There are new patterns of strengthened relations across the Eurasian continent. There are shifts in international financial realities driven in part by sanctions on Russia. The petrodollar is failing.

This need not endanger Australia. What endangers Australia is the power of people in love with and driving to spend all our money on past militarised fantasies, ignoring the peaceful potentials of the future in a multipolar world, with our tax dollars sensibly spent on making the country worth defending.

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